The Competition and Consumer Protection (CCPC) Tribunal sitting in Abuja has ordered MultiChoice Nigeria Limited – the operator of satellite televisions; DSTV and GOTV- to pay N25 million fine for violating an order restraining the company from increasing its tariff.
The tribunal ordered the fine to be paid immediately to the Tribunal’s Registry.
It also restrained Multichoice Nigeria from proceeding to appeal its judgment until the fine has been paid.
In a ruling on Thursday, a three-member panel of the tribunal, headed by Thomas Okosun, held the company breached the order of March 30 and was liable to pay the penalty.
“The 1st defendant (MultiChoice) is in contempt of this tribunal. So we have reviewed the position of Section 51(3) of FCCPC Act, 2018 and in compliance with the provision of Subsection 2 of the same Section 51, we hereby order the 1st defendant, MultiChoice Nigeria Ltd, to pay the sum of N 25 million only as an administrative penalty for contempt of this honourable tribunal,” Okosun said
On Tuesday, the tribunal ordered MultiChoice to produce its audited 2021 financial report for violating a restraining order on tariff increase.
It also compelled the directors of MultiChoice to appear on September 8 with a certified true copy of a detailed financial report of the company’s 2021 financial year made by a three-member panel of the tribunal.
However, at the court session on Thursday, MultiChoice, through its counsel, Jamiu Agoro, informed the tribunal about two applications filed.
Agoro said after a proper review of the tribunal’s judgment, the company decided to proceed on appeal.
He said out of the two applications before the tribunal, “one is an application seeking stay of execution.”
The lawyer also noted that there was no management staff of the company available in Abuja to present the firm’s audit report.
“In view of our motion for stay of execution which has been served on all parties, we pray that you set the motion down for hearing for the tribunal to look at our application if it is meritorious or not,” he said.
The tribunal, however, disagreed with Agoro, stating that the company’s appearance before it along with the audited report was the order of the day.
The panel also stated that there was no notice of appeal before it.
“You know the law, counsel. First, those papers are not with us. The only reason we are here this morning is to make a pronouncement on the penalty the 1st defendant MultiChoice is to pay,” Thomas Okosun, chairman of the tribunal, said.
“It is your right to appeal. The only point I took from you is that you don’t have your details here, rather than raising issues of appeal. It is your right to appeal,” he added.
After a brief stand-down, the tribunal reconvened and awarded N25 million cost against the firm.
A legal practitioner, Festus Onifade, had sued MultiChoice on behalf of himself and the coalition of Nigerian consumers.
Onifade had prayed the tribunal for an order restraining the firm from hiking subscription fees for its services and other products on April 1, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice dated and filed on March 29.
The tribunal had granted an ex parte motion, directing parties to maintain “status quo antebellum” (to maintain the situation as it existed before).
The tribunal also reiterated its order on April 11.
But MultiChoice implemented the tariff hike on April 1, claiming that it had already configured all its devices for the development.
The court upheld the contempt application initiated against the firm by Onifade and ordered that a detailed financial report of the company’s 2021 financial year be tendered to “enable the tribunal to determine the appropriate penalty to impose on MultiChoice for being in contempt of the orders of this honourable tribunal made on March 30.”
The main suit, however, was dismissed for lacking merit on Tuesday.
The tribunal held that the claimant failed to establish that MultiChoice abused its dominant position in the market.
It also held that only the President has the power to regulate or fix the prices of goods and services.